Jaroslav Ježek and His Work of the 1950s and 1960s Jaroslav Ježek was born on 26 January 1923 in the Czech village of Podlesí near Příbram. Between 1945 and 1949, he studied at the Pedagogical Faculty of the Charles University in Prague with Professor Sejpka and focused on the subject of art education. But he did not finish his studies, planning to switch to the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design to the studio of Professor Eckert. Upon his recommendation he, however, rather first voted for practical training in production in order to master technology and operation in porcelain industry. He acquired six-month scholarship in the art department of the famed porcelain manufacture Thun in Klášterec nad Ohří. Eventually resigning at studies at all, he remained in Klášterec until 1954, when the art department was closed. In this period, only Ježek’s decoration designs were realized. After a break of one year, he was summoned – along with the best pattern-makers and technologists from all factories – to the new development center located in Lesov near Carlsbad. In the same year, his designs of porcelain sets entitled “Rosana” and “Kleopatra” and, a year later, also “Lenka” were realized. Ježek also created numerous sketches to gift sets and vases as well as plentiful floral decorations which supplemented the smooth sides of pots and cups. In 1957 Ježek was invited to create designs for the World Exhibition in Brussels. The participating artists knew that the Czechoslovak commission would not solve usual functional, economic and technological criteria this time, but their priority would be shapes that could represent Czechoslovak design on an international scale. The Grand Prix, by which Ježek’s set “Elka” was awarded, was well-deserved. Its elegant and at the same time extravagant shape far exceeded the qualities of contemporary products manufactured by the leading porcelain factories worldwide. Ježek also designed a set of ovenware, “Asmanit”, for the Brussels’ restaurant. In 1958 Ježek moreover designed the “Sylva” model whose shape followed up with the “Asmanit” set. The success of “Elka” probably resulted from the fact that similarly extravagant sets – “Ex”, “Manon” and “Tria” – were approved for production in 1959. These were, however, produced merely on a minimum scale because perhaps only design lovers used to buy them, or they served as luxurious gifts. Larger potential for being accepted by a commonplace consumer probably had the “Orava” set, created in the same year and manufactured by the Nová Role factory, and the set called “Ciráno”, produced by the porcelain factory in Chodov. The years of 1960 and 1961 witnessed the appearance of Ježek’s shapes “Blanka” and “Hanka”, subsequently manufactured in Loket and Dalovice. One year later, it was the shape called “Rafaela”, produced in a small series in Lesov. In response to the development in Rosenthal, Ježek created the shape “Komtesa” in 1964, which represented a certain kind of variation to Baroque forms, as well as “Luisa”, inspired by a Klášterec porcelain set from the early 19th century. The following designs were “Marina” with a decorative band running along the center of the body, and “Nefertiti” whose band was, on the contrary, concavely bent. Amongst other interesting porcelain sets from the 1960s were, for example, “Orion”, “Patricia”, the angular sets “Sidonia” and “Romana”, the “Aurelia” with vallecular neck, “Beatrice”, “Marka” and “Sophia”. Ježek moreover designed several sets of tableware to supplement the porcelain sets. The shapes of the first either departed from the shapes of “Elka”, “Kleopatra” and “Giovanna”, or were totally independent on them in form, as was, for example, the set entitled “Ryby” [Fish]. After the success at the Expo exhibition, the production program of the Lesov factory also incorporated figures which Ježek designed in large numbers. Already in the case of his small horses, he succeeded to break the tradition of porcelain figures as it developed from the second quarter of the 18th century. His figures from the 1950s are characteristic of abstracting detail. The form is dominated by elegant curve that usually emphasizes motion or a typical position of the featured animal and more than often also aptly captures its personality. Apart from elegance, the figures often do not lack wit and tenderness. While the late 1950s were characteristic of motion and playfulness, the animal figures in the early 1960s gradually became static, with perforation often appearing in the eye area. Some details of animal bodies – for example wings – were emphasized by structural ornament in negative relief. The animals are seated on either conical or cubic plinths what even strengthens the static impression, while the figures thus achieve an expression of a certain dignity. Ježek usually designed his figures as monochromic or, eventually, in a combination of two contrasting colors. Some details were sometimes highlighted by salt decoration. Large majority of the figures was taken over for production by the Duchcov porcelain manufacture.
* 1923, Podlesí u Příbrami, Czech Republic